Oxidized low-density lipoprotein (Ox-LDL) activates transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta)/Smad signaling to stimulate plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) expression in mesangial cells. Smad-binding sequences, termed CAGA boxes, are present in the promoter of human PAI-1 gene, and they mediate TGF-beta transcriptional induction. However, the functional role of each CAGA box in the Ox-LDL-induced PAI-1 promoter activation is unknown. In this study, mutation of 1 of the 3 CAGA boxes located at -730, -580, and -280 of the PAI-1 promoter decreased the Ox-LDL-induced luciferase activity by 40 to 58%, whereas mutations in 2 sites reduced it over 75% or completely abolished it. Overexpression of Smad3 in N-terminal tagged Smad3-transfected cells increased the Ox-LDL-induced transcriptional activation of the PAI-1 promoter, whereas mutation of Smad3 abolished it. Electrophoretic mobility shift assay showed that the labeled -280, -580, and -730 CAGA box probes detected DNA/protein complexes induced by Ox-LDL, whereas mutant probes did not. When nuclear extracts were preincubated with a 100-fold of an unlabeled -280, -580, and -730 CAGA oligonucleotide, the formation of complexes was prevented but not with mutant CAGA box competitors. The addition of anti-Smad3 to the reaction with the labeled -280 or -580 CAGA box probe resulted in a supershift, but not with the -730 CAGA box probe. These results suggest that the 3 CAGA elements in the PAI-1 promoter mediate the Ox-LDL-induced PAI-1 transcription to a different degree, of which the -280 and -580 CAGA regions directly bind to Smad3.